Behind Closed Doors: Easy Dishwasher Tab Dispenser

I absolutely hate some of the packaging that’s out there for dishwasher tablets; it’s hard to get those pucks out when they’re in a ‘clamshell’ and trying to dig them out from under the sink can be a challenge in itself – even when they come in a resealable bag!

I was browsing Hometalk when I came across a fellow blogger’s solution for storing dishwasher tabs. I thought this was a great solution, but I wanted mine to be easily accessible without having to dive under the cupboard to pull them out every time I needed one. I have a bad back, so I don’t do dishes. It has actually been hubs’ job to do the scavenging hunt when we run the dishwasher. The solution I came up with is easy for me to access without bending down and with a few simple office supplies, I didn’t even have to drill a hole into the back of my kitchen sink cabinet to mount it!!

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One note of caution though before proceeding: if you have young kids and want to implement this, make sure you have a child proof safety latch on the door; these pucks look temptingly like candy and you wouldn’t want the wee ones to ingest this stuff!

The plastic dispenser I used was originally made for storing sweetener.

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This has to be the simplest storage solution I’ve ever executed! I emptied the sweetener, loaded it up with the tabs, then added a binder clip onto the part of the container that’s cut away. Make sure the back prong of the binder clip is sticking straight up… this is what you’ll use to hang it with!

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Add an elastic on one side just to keep the tabs from falling out when the cabinet door is opened and closed; it keeps everything in place and it’s easy to reach in a grab one as the elastic is flexible.

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Here is my sink cabinet. Notice the knobs? I used the same screw that holds the knob in place to hang the dispenser onto the back of the door!

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Depending on the whether the clip will slide over the head of the screw, you may only have to unscrew it a little to slip it on. In my case, I had to take it off completely, sandwich the knob and dispenser onto the door and then screw it all back into place.

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Now tighten the screw so it’s snug. If for some reason the knob on the front of the door is too loose, you may have to replace the screw with a longer one. Mine was still perfect!

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To refill it, you can fill it in place, or remove the container by squeezing the clip to release it so you can restock it on your counter top .

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You may want to be on the lookout for a slightly longer container so you can store a week-full of tabs at once; however I wouldn’t buy anything wider as there’s a perfect amount of clearance to be able to close the door.

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I think hubs is happy with the convenience of having it hanging on the back of the door where it’s easy to reach; now I can do the dishes every once in a while if I choose to (oh, but wait: I don’t do dishes)! With two people in our household we only run the dishwasher once a week, so this solution could conceivably save my back for up to a month and a half before we have to replenish the supply.

In the near future (once I have my craft room up and running), I’m going to work on making it prettier. I’ll replace the elastic with a door of sorts made out of something like a clear plastic report cover so it looks better, but for now it functions great!

Although not nearly as easy, you can see my other kitchen storage solutions by clicking on the pictures below….

Hidden Kitchen Storage: Turn a Filler Panel into a Pull-Out Cabinet!

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Ikea Stenstorp Kitchen Cart Hack:

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Paint Chip Portrait

As a painter, my husband had amassed a huge collection of old paint chips and defunct paint decks. I also had a growing collection that I held onto from years of renovating and flipping houses. I was curious to see what one could do to recycle paint chips, so I did a Pinterest search and I came across a portrait of Marilyn Monroe done completely with paint chips. The light bulb went off: what better way to immortalize my husband, than with a paint chip portrait of himself!

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DISCLAIMER: as I already had scads of old paint chips, this entire project was an exercise in upcycling what I already had. I didn’t take paint chips from the paint store, so please don’t do that either 🙂

The blog associated with the Pinterest post didn’t really divulge much about how it was done so I had to make it up as I went along. With a few purchased items and a software program, such as photoshop, I knew I’d be able to figure out a method that worked! It was going to be a labour of love – extremely time consuming – but by breaking it down into smaller steps, this time-intensive project was going to be well worth it in the end.

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The first thing I did was to select my picture frame; it had to be large enough so that when I assembled the ‘pixelated’ portrait I’d be able to still see all the detail. I found a great frame at Ikea, sized 19 3/4″ x 27 1/2″.  As an added bonus, I was able to glue my paint chips directly to the hardboard backing, then reinsert it back into the frame to complete my project.

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I needed something to cut the hundreds of little pieces that make up the portrait; I found this portable plastic X-Acto paper cutter with a metal blade at the dollar store for only $3.  You can’t go wrong with a price like that; it was sharp and just the right size for storing after the project was completed. You’ll notice I made some modifications (more about that later).

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I also needed somewhere to corral all those hundreds of pieces of paint chips once they were all cut (over 800!). For that, I found this large medication organizer; the one pictured on the right is from Amazon.com, but I found mine at Walgreens when I was in the U.S.

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The last thing I needed was a glue stick. Once I gathered all my materials, I was ready to start.

Photoshop

Start with a close-up picture. For demonstration purposes, I’m going to use this picture of Lady Gaga at the 73rd Golden Globe awards that I found using a Google search:

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Using Photoshop I neutralized all the background:

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I selected any apparent black pixels that were still peeking through the strands of her hair and used the paint bucket to fill them with the same colour as the background (I wasn’t too picky about capturing the lighter shades of grey):

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Then I cropped the picture very close:

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Selecting Filter / Pixelate / Mosaic in Photoshop will bring up a slide adjuster you can use to adjust the size of the pixels. I played with this to get a good balance of not too many squares vs. not too much pixelation, keeping in mind the size of the frame and the need to still be able to make out the face when done! The litmus test is to look at the computer screen at a distance to see how well the squares blend.

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When I did the vertical portrait of hubs I ended up with 25 squares across the width and 33 squared in height.  By cutting each paint chip into 7/8″ squares, the final size ended up filling the dimensions of the Ikea Stromby Frame almost perfectly (I had to fill in a bit of the background colour along the right and left edges). The size of the paint chip will vary according to frame size and number of ‘pixels’ you end up with.

I numbered the bottom horizontal row and also the vertical row on the left of the portrait so I would be able to keep track of each square (I didn’t complete the numbers up the side on the example below, but you get the idea!).

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The portrait above doesn’t really look like it has much detail, but when you consider that it will be seen at a distance, all the pixels will blend and the face will be totally recognizable. I have reduced the exact same picture shown above to demonstrate this effect. As you can see, it will all come into focus; I love this picture of Lady Gaga!

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Now for the painstaking part. I took the eyedropper (circled below), clicked on the first square then opened up the colour picker to find out the RGB values.

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Open the colour picker in Photoshop to record the RGB values

Once I had the RGB values, I went to a website called EasyRGB. I entered the RGB values as shown below, selected a paint manufacturer, clicked the start button and it gave me the closest four colour matches to the RGB values I input.

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EasyRBG Website allows you to input an RGB value to find the closest paint match

Here are the four colours EasyRGB determined as the closest match to the values I input in the previous example:

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Closest colour matches to RGB

When you are colour matching, you need to keep in mind that everything is relative. You will never find a perfect match to the shade you’re trying to find.  However, once you assemble all your paint chips, you will get the necessary amount of contrast within what’s available in the particular line of paint you’ve chosen.  For example, the picture below shows a close-up of the paint chips I used to construct hub’s nose. You wouldn’t think such a wide range of contrasts would work when you’re trying to put together ‘flesh tones’, but when the portrait was complete (and mounted a good distance away from where it will be viewed) it just really worked. I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t sweat the small stuff; you’re not looking for perfection with your colour matching!

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Close up of assembled paint chips

Since EasyRGB didn’t have all the particular brands of paint I was looking for, I also did a search online for colour-matching apps that many of the paint manufacturers now have. Some are available at a modest fee, but most are free. I was able to literally open up my picture on my IPad, enlarge it and then tap each square to find my paint match.

Once I found a match, I needed somewhere to write it down and record it. I made myself an excel spreadsheet with numbered rows and columns to correspond to those I previously added onto the pixelated portrait. I sat at my desktop computer using the Ipad to colour-match, while using my computer to record the colour in Excel. Every time I colour matched a square, I would record it on the spread sheet.

When I was ready to cut the paint chips, I was able to sort the sheet  so that I would know how many pieces of the same colour I would need to complete the portrait. The spread sheet also acted as a road map (when unsorted) to place each chip in place for assembly purposes.

Cutting

Remember the $3 paper cutter? Here’s how I adapted it to cut my paint chips:

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View is from underside of paper cutter

I laid two strips of plywood onto the back (I had to shim it to keep it level); I literally just double face taped everything onto the cutter. Then I flipped it over and added a cross piece that was perpendicular and 7/8″ away from the cutting blade (also fastened with heavy duty double face tape).  The setup is similar to having  a fence extension on a mitre saw; the strip of plywood acted as a stop edge that kept all my paint chips consistently sized to 7/8″. Once each strip was cut, I turned it 90 degrees and then cut it again for a perfect square.

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Paint chip is lined up with plywood edge to keep size consistent

I cut as many pieces of one colour as I needed and then grouped them into stacked piles beside my work space (labeled with the colour number so I could refer back to my excel sheet).

Once all my pieces were cut, I ordered them – according to my excel sheet – into rows and placed them into the medicine organizer. I had more rows than space available in the organizer so I had to double up some of the sections (I put a divider between the stacks and wrote the row number on it so I could keep track).

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Assembling the Paint Chips onto the Backer Board

Once I had all my paint chips cut and organized, I did a dry run on top of the backer board (as shown above) to make sure it would all work out in the width and length. I did a final ‘squint check’ to see if I should replace any odd looking colour chips (better to do it before it’s all glued down!). I swapped out one or two of the chips out with better colours just by eyeballing it.

Now I was ready to glue. I carefully re-stacked the paint chips and placed them back into the organizer in the same order they were removed.

Starting at the lower left edge, I  applied glue stick onto the back of the first paint chip and place it firmly onto the board. I proceeded the same way with the remainder of the row making sure each chip was tightly butted up against the other.  I knew it would just snowball if I left any gaps, so I took my time.

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Gluing down the paint chips – in progress

Whenever I took a break or got bored, I just closed the lid of the medicine organizer (and put the cap on the glue stick!) until I was ready to start up again. I appreciated having a closed container to keep the dust off because I was at it for weeks on end!

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Paint chips stored in the medicine organizer

Once everything was glued down to the backer board I simply put it back into the Stromby frame I purchased and added wire onto the back to hang (per Ikea’s assembly instructions).

All that’s left to do is hang it and enjoy.

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As you can see from the shot on the lower right shown above, it was hard to get a final picture of my husband’s portrait without window glare, but I love how it turned out! I plan to move it into my craft studio, once the basement is done.

Pictured below is how Lady Gaga’s portrait might turn out.

If this project has inspired you, please pin and post on Facebook!

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For another wall decor idea, check out Expand Your Horizons: Propel Your Bulkhead into the Spotlight.

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Ikea Stenstorp Kitchen Cart Hack

We ran into a problem with our kitchen design when we couldn’t fit two pantries along the fridge wall due to traffic flow issues. Our renovator changed the plan on us and left us with an awkward blank spot to fill at the entry to our kitchen. Not only was it ugly to look at, but the lack of a pantry left us terribly short of storage space!

Ikea’s Stenstorp kitchen cart seemed like a great solution, but I wasn’t a fan of the open storage.  I wanted extra drawer space to hold things like my kitchen knives and towels, however, I didn’t want to permanently alter the cart in case I ever wanted to convert it back one day.  Friend to the rescue: the solution was to build a removable two drawer unit that simply slips in and sits on the top shelf. I liken this project to the ‘Turducken’ of Ikea hacks: the removable drawer unit is two boxes within a box that sits between the two rails within the top portion of the cart!

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You may notice in the picture above that the colour of the Stenstorp before was a more yellowed shade of white.  I wanted the cart to look like it was made to match the rest of the kitchen (seen below), so we ended up repainting the cart a white that was colour-matched to our kitchen cabinets. We also bought the same oil bronzed cup pulls to tie in the hardware.

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As you can see by the before and after pictures below, we were left with a big empty space, but now the cart fills it in nicely.  The best part is that we can move it completely out of the way if we ever need to bring anything wide in or out of the kitchen!

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At first we weren’t sure how we would build the drawer, so we started our transformation of the cart by taking full measurements as shown below. We have a friend who’s extremely knowledgeable about furniture building so we asked for his advice. He came up with the brilliant idea of making something that wasn’t permanently attached. That was when we decided on a self-enclosed removable unit with drawers for only the top half with open storage on the bottom for some baskets.

Our friend not not only came up with the idea, but he also offered to cut and assemble the pieces for us. He then handed it back over to us to paint, clear coat (the top and drawers), add hardware and, of course, add finishing touches like baskets and artwork to decorate the space. Who could refuse an offer like that?

In the end, we really only needed the inside dimensions of the first section and also the inner dimensions of the sides, so we could add a panel to hide the fact that that the drawer isn’t ‘built in’ (A,C,I & J).

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We only used measurements for A, C, I and J

We made the final size of the box 1/8″ less in both height and width so there’s enough room to slip it onto the shelf. That way we wouldn’t have noticeable gaps that would give away that the drawers are not built-in.

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Here’s how the box looks resting on the shelf from the side and back view; we didn’t build the box to the full depth of the shelf, as you can see in this picture:

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Below you’ll see the inside and outside dimensions of the box;  the finished dimensions were 25-3/16″ wide x 11 -1/8″ high x 16-7/16″ deep.  Since it sits so snugly on the shelf, we taped off about 1/2″ around the face and painted only that part white (it’s the only part you actually see – the rest was clear coated).

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We used 5/8″ maple to build the box; again, our friend mitred the pieces of wood 45 degrees on each edge with a table saw and then glued and clamped it all together with a biscuit joint.

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Close-up of mitre joint

Watch the first minute of this YouTube video to see the process of biscuit joining a 45 degree mitre:

We used Blum drawer glides that were 13-5/8″ in length. For the bottom drawer, the hardware sat directly on the bottom of the box and the distance between that and next glide we installed was 4-3/4″.

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The finished size of your drawers will depend on the thickness of the wood you use to build the box and also the clearance you need for your particular hardware; we used 1/2″ maple for the drawers.  The drawer itself was built 23″ wide x 3-7/8″ high x 13-7/8 deep” wide to accommodate the drawer glide hardware inside the box; both drawers were built to the same dimensions.

You could join the wood of the drawer using a pocket hole jig, countersink screws or even brad nails and glue, but our friend used a dovetail jig then glued and clamped it together.  He also routed out a slot to accept 1/4 plywood for the bottom of the drawer (which was also screwed on along the back edge only as you can see below).

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From left: drawer dimensions, front face and pull installed, blum hardware on underside

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Dovetail joints in drawer

While it’s great that we had access to a friend who could help us fabricate a professional looking drawer, not many of you will have the tools or a friend to do this. Jenn over at Build-Basic has a great tutorial for building a simple drawer that anyone with some basic tools could do. Once the drawers were complete, my husband sprayed them with a clear finish to seal the wood.

Our drawer face measured 4-11/16″ high x 23-11/16″ wide. As you can see in the picture of the drawer below, we positioned the face 1/2″ from the top edge of the drawer and centred it from side to side. We drilled pilot holes through the box and then drove 1″ screws through the holes into the backside of the drawer front (which we also painted to match the rest of the cart).

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We installed the drawer glides into the box, then slid the box onto the first shelf of the cart. Maybe one day I’ll take off the blue protective plastic coating on the stainless steel shelves – lol!

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Then drawers went in:

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Once the drawers were in, we attached the drawer pulls, then we could fill our drawers up!

We tried our knives in the second drawer, but then moved them up to the top for better access. We’re currently using a bamboo knife tray to hold them, but it’s not a perfect fit so one day I’ll build custom dividers for the drawer (and post the tutorial)!

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Drawers hold knives and dish towels/pot holders

The final touch was to put a panel on the side you see as you walk into the room (I have one for the other side too, but haven’t gotten around to putting it on!). We used 1/8″ MDF (14-1/8″ wide x 28-1/2″long) and painted it white inside and out. The cart is the first thing you see as you enter the kitchen so it’s nice to have the panel there to hide the side of the drawer and also the baskets I placed on the bottom shelf that hold our onions and potatoes.

I used 3-M Command Strips, which are typically used to hang pictures. They can be removed in the future, if I ever want to restore the cart back to original, without leaving a mark! Since the panel is pretty light, three strips worked perfectly. I applied one to each rail of the side and then removed the paper to expose the adhesive backing. I carefully positioned the panel and firmly pressed it into place where it meets the rails to make contact with the adhesive. If you don’t position the panel just right the first time, avoid the temptation to lift it off.  Give the adhesive backing a chance to set up for at least 24 hours and then you can finesse the panel. Once the glue sets up, it’s just like removing something that has been velcroed; you can easily re-position the panel and snap it back in where you want it.

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Clockwise from top left (side views of cart): the drawer, applied 3M-strips, completed panel and close up of 3M strip

It was great to be able to move the microwave from the counter top on the other side of the kitchen to the cart; it freed up some much needed prep space! While my husband was repainting the cart the same white as our kitchen, he also clear-coated the wooden top so we wouldn’t have to worry about spills.

Here are some comparisons of the space before and after the cart:

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And here is the final shot of the cart with the drawer unit in place:

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To finish off what was once a blank corner, we added some framed pictures of vegetables that a friend of a friend took at a market; I love the pop of colour! I also added a plaque that says ‘indulge’ – appropriate for a kitchen, don’t you think?

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What’s a kitchen without a little indulgence?

To eek out even more space in our galley kitchen, my husband and I also built this pull-out cabinet.

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After the cart and pull-out cabinet were done, my husband turned his attention to finishing our basement. He’s building a craft room for me and a mancave for him (so he can finally relax after all the sweat equity he put in to building the basement)! I’ll have more how-to’s coming up in future posts stemming from the basement reno (i.e. tiling a backsplash in the laundry room, installing engineered hardwood flooring and how to install baseboard and trim).

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Powder Room Makeover – Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget

Our powder room is the first room you see as you come into our front entry and it was an eyesore. Dated oak cabinets, builder beige walls, old toilet and an ugly light fixture made for a poor first impression.

It HAD to change, but having just gotten married, we were on a tight budget. We salvaged everything that was usable and upcycled some second hand finds (one found in our very own basement), making this a budget friendly makeover.

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We started by stripping everything away that was going to either get replaced or updated; that turned out to be everything except the cabinet doors!

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We patched the walls where we took down the sheet of mirror that was over the old vanity.  I wanted to add a hanging mirror there instead but couldn’t find anything that really caught my fancy, until one day we found something fantastic in a pile of old junk in our very own basement (see the reveal as you scroll down)!

We primed the walls and then painted the entire room a dark charcoal grey.  You would think that a dark colour would make the room look smaller, but it didn’t. I think it’s because we added a lot of contrast by way of artwork, fixtures and trim paint, which were all light in colour (as you’ll see later).

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Patching the walls before priming

My husband ended up rebuilding the vanity cabinet because it wasn’t very sturdy, but he kept the doors for me so I could add a very special feature: some iridescent grey water glass.

We cut the centre panel out of each door, then spray painted the frames with a charcoal grey car paint. Car paint is great to use in the bathroom in case there’s any splashes!

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After the paint was dry, I inserted the glass into the doors, hung them on the cabinet and added new hardware.

I wouldn’t recommend putting water glass in the lower part of any cabinet if you have children because this particular glass isn’t tempered.  For us that wasn’t a problem because we don’t have young kids in the house (and I wanted the powder room to have a bit of sparkle!).

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Water glass is beautiful, but it isn’t tempered so beware!

After the cabinet was done, we popped on the countertop. The counter was actually the inspiration for the colour scheme of the entire bathroom. It happened to be a left over piece from the renovation of a previous house I fixed up. I knew I’d have a use for it one day, so I held onto it – for a few years 🙂 It was the perfect size – and essentially free!

I installed a glass tile backsplash before we cut the hole for the sink. The counter gave me somewhere to work and rest my tools and adhesive/bucket of grout while I was installing the tile. Because it was such a tiny area (and we were trying to save money), I used a dollar store rubber kitchen spatula instead of a more expensive float to apply the grout! It worked great.

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Once the tile was done, we were ready to install a new ceramic sink that we found on clearance. Before installing it we used putty to seal around the hole we cut for the sink. The putty adds an extra measure of water proofing that I think is better than caulking for sealing. It also provides a cushion to bed the sink into.

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Putty is rolled into ropes before applying to sink area

Here, you can see the dramatic charcoal grey on all the walls contrasts with the while trim, towels and flooring. We also installed a new matching toilet paper and towel holder in a chrome finish to add more sparkle.

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We decided we needed extra storage because my husband was going to be using the powder room in the morning to shave and brush his teeth so he wouldn’t wake me up. We found an old wooden medicine cabinet at the Habitat for Humanity Re Store; I think it cost a mere $15! We measured the perimeter of the cabinet, then cut a hole in the drywall between the studs so we could recess it into the wall.  We added some 2 x 4’s along the top and bottom in between the studs to reinforce the structure to accept the cabinet.

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We spray painted the cabinet frame and door the same colour as the walls so it would blend in seamlessly.

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But then I had a change of heart and I decided to do THIS to the centre of the door:

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Testing out the spacing on the wall

I literally just decoupaged on prints from an old calendar – again, another freebie! I added an additional decorative raised effect using venetian plaster that I troweled through a variety of botanical and nautical stencils. The next step was to crackle the surface and rub in a bit of stain to age it and highlight the cracks. Finally, I added some thin strips of wood to separate each image and added a high gloss Varathane to protect the whole surface from splashes. It adds just the right pop of colour to the monochromtic space, don’t you think?

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A plain wooden cabinet get a fun decoupage finish to add a POP of colour!

Once the cabinet was done, I needed a mirror that would counterbalance it and also reflect the burst of colour coming from the ‘artwork’. Here is what we found in the aforementioned junk pile in our basement:

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It wasn’t a thing of beauty – yet, but it had potential! It clearly needed a cosmetic overhaul so, in keeping with the monochromatic colour theme, we stripped it down to bare wood and then primed and gave it a fresh coat of the same charcoal paint we used on our wall.

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I absolutely love that the mirror used to belong to my husband’s great grandmother; it adds a vintage touch to the space. I also love the authentic antique quality of the mirror glass itself. It’s see-through in spots; to me, the fact that the silver backing isn’t perfect makes it so much more beautiful!

Here’s the reveal once the mirror was in place. Doesn’t the mirror balance and reflect the medicine cabinet beautifully?

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You’d think we might have stopped there, but we really wanted to go all out with the glamour so we splurged a little and added some crown moulding at the ceiling.

First, we installed some wooden corner blocks to help us position the moulding and then we pin-nailed it in place. We caulked any gaps at the ceiling and walls with paintable caulk.

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As you can see above, we still didn’t have a light fixture in place at this point. I was taking a stained glass fusing course at the time and decided to make my own light fixture. It’s subtle, but you can see that there are starfish in the glass that play off the ceramic ones I attached to the wall above the toilet. The white in the crown mouding, light fixture and star fish are a nice contrast against the deep colour of the walls.

Here’s how the light fixture looked before and after.

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Light fixture before and after

Here are a few more afters. I added some light and airy artwork to the wall.

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And a final before and after comparison:

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The makeover was a big improvement; now we’re no longer embarrassed to have guests use the power room and my husband has a nice place to get ready in the morning. At first, he thought it was too nice and thought we should reserve it for guests only. However, I truly believe that the real secret to a long and a happy marriage is never having to share a bathroom, so I didn’t see any reason to start 🙂

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